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United States v. Jackson

November 9, 2006; as amended November 17, 2006


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Criminal Action No. 05-cr-00004) District Judge: Honorable Paul S. Diamond.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambro, Circuit Judge


Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) September 28, 2006

Before: McKEE and AMBRO, Circuit Judges RESTANI,*fn1 Chief Judge, Court of International Trade.


We address in this case further aspects of the sentencing process for our Circuit in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). In so doing, we affirm the sentence imposed by the District Court.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Johnathan Ryan Jackson was arrested in 2004 after an investigation into reports of counterfeit $20 bills circulating in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. As a result of this investigation, local police officers and U.S. Secret Service agents obtained a search warrant for an apartment unit in Pottstown. Upon executing the search warrant, the police found Jackson inside the apartment with a color photocopier, a paper cutter and utility knife, white résumé paper, two individual counterfeit $20 bills, 24 other counterfeit $20 bills yet to be cut from printed sheets of the résumé paper, and $287 in legitimate U.S. currency (including two $20 bills that had served as patterns for the counterfeits).

Officers also found what appeared to be a line of powdered cocaine.

Jackson quickly admitted his crimes and, after indictment, notified the Government of his intent to plead guilty to the charges-one count each of counterfeiting obligations of the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 471, uttering counterfeit obligations, id. § 472, and dealing in counterfeit obligations, id. § 473. Jackson admitted to having produced approximately $50,000 in counterfeit currency over six months, selling much of it for about 30 cents on the dollar, and using the rest at flea markets and bars or with drug dealers. The full extent of Jackson's criminal behavior likely would not have been known but for his cooperation.

At Jackson's sentencing hearing, the District Court calculated the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range to be 37--46 months of imprisonment, followed by between two and three years of supervised release. The recommended range stemmed principally from the amount of counterfeit currency to which Jackson had admitted producing (adding six levels to the base offense level of nine) and by Jackson's criminal history category of VI (the highest possible). He also received a three-level reduction in the base offense level for his early guilty plea, thus sparing the Government the expense of preparing for and conducting a trial.

Jackson made two principal arguments to the District Court in favor of a sentence below the advisory Guidelines range. First, he asserted that his "extraordinary acceptance of responsibility" warranted a downward departure pursuant to the Guidelines themselves. Second, Jackson noted many mitigating factors for the Court to consider in the exercise of its sentencing discretion, including an upbringing in which drugs were commonplace and contributed to his own addiction. Jackson's drug problems, in addition to providing the impetus for his counterfeiting activities, also led to a particularly acute eight-month period in which he committed all of the crimes accounting for his high Guidelines criminal history score. These mitigating factors, argued Jackson, warranted a sentence below the advisory Guidelines range.

After adopting the presentence report (with minor changes), the Judge began Jackson's sentencing hearing as follows:

Under the Supreme Court's decision in Booker, the guidelines are advisory, not mandatory. Accordingly, in reviewing the revised presentence investigation report, I have considered the guideline range in the report as just one of many factors, including the nature and circumstances of the offense, and the history and characteristics of the defendant, the pertinent sentencing commission policy statements, such as the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities and the need to provide restitution to victims, the need for the sentence to provide for just punishment for the offenses charged, the need to ...

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